Frauds and colors in the Middle Ages.

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Frauds and colors in the Middle Ages.

In the Middle Ages, between 1200 and 1500 fresh meats are under surveillance and the charter of Mirepoix granted by Jean de Lévis Ier, Lord of Mirepoix ( 1303 ) watches and regulates the animals killing, the distribution and the sale of the butcher’s shop. It is about food hygiene, of protection of the consumers and to rule out any sick or doubtful meat.
Madeleine de FERRIÈRE [ 1 ] in his book of the history of the food fears also develops the notion of deceit, cheats, and of forgery, the appearance of controls of laws and penalties.
With the birth of the consumer in the XIIth century, appears the notion of choice, of selection, the buyer compares the quality of the products which are proposed to him, the bread, the wine, the spices, the meats, the fruits are compared calling on to five senses only tools available on the time to estimate the quality of products.

So the visual dimension by the aspect of foodstuffs and their color becomes an element of measure, valuing the aestheticism of the medieval tables.
The visual sense is thus recognized, measuring instrument allowing to gauge the quality of the dishes proposed in Les Halles and on the medieval tables.
If the saffron is used to value the taste of the dishes, it also plays a leading role in their tint(coloring).
Madeleine DE FERRIÈRE also underlines that Mesnagier of Paris (2) we teaches how a good housewife must be capable of preparing some blue frost from sunflower:

” TO MAKE BLUE FROST” take of said broth, that is fish or tank, and put in a paelle beautiful and make boiled  on the fire and set known an espicier two ounces of sunflower and put it boiling with as long as it has good color, then take a pint of loach and cook it somewhere else, and keep the loach in your dishes, and let pour the bouillon as above, and let chilled.

Item, of this gets a bruise. And you want to make above the frost take gold or silver, which that better will please you, and of the auburn of an egg draw in a fine feather, and put some gold above in a pair of tweezers. To confine to bed,

FOR CAME PI.AS OF FROST suits ten thin chubby thin young rabbits ten a bottle of wine of loach which can be worth three grounds hundred escrevices  which are not from the Marne, six grounds a thin pig, three grounds eight deniers ”
Color in red of the Pears of anxiety by infusing some hay, transform from some white wine to red wine by means of wild flowers.
On gate-legged tables, the saffron is used to obtain the yellow, the parsley for the green and the sunflower for the purple, we obtain the red from the invaluable sandalwood, dishes are gladly “gold coins” tinged with saffron, the broom, offer  yellow color to stews, we also use the word Geneste for the yellow ” which is yellow as flower of genesle and is turned yellow by hubs of eggs and by saffron

If colors adorn certain dishes, the same colors can in other circumstances be repulsed or even misadvised for raw products, “Mesnagier of Paris” advice for example the very white bacon and misadvises the yellow bacon, the butchers light in height days their stalls of candles to give in them rotten meats beautiful appearance, pulpits turned yellow due to the lack of freshness seem so very white.

Certain traders unscrupulous used the lighting in the candle in broad daylight to give to their rotten meats a better aspect. This act which had for impact to change the aspect of flesh established a deceit on the goods [ 4 ].

The yellow ” genets ” could be developing for certain raw products, the saffron offered the aspect of the gold for certain elaborate food, nevertheless the same color became disgusting on salt meats, so offering an appearance of decay.

Madeleine DE FERRIÈRE underlines very here the cultural status of colors bound to the food and the attachment of the consumer which codifies differently a color as it concerns a raw product or a dish.

There are two well different statuses between:

The dishes prepared and colored by the cook and his imagination to make them tasty, valued, decorated …

  • The raw food, thus the color testifies of the freshness of the product.
  • The subtlety is not allowed, the nature is the foundation of the trust of the buyer to a raw product.

At the end of the XIVth century, in Paris, it is forbidden to whitewash, the practice of tint of the butter to make it more yellow is severely punished, forbidding the use of marigold flowers [ 5 ], we can read in the prescription of the prefect of Paris of November 25th, 1396: ” make defenses to every people who deal in fresh butter or Salted of mixed butters to give them a more yellow color, or by mixing with it? Flowers of Soucy, other flowers, grasslands, or give drugs; their fact also defenses to mix the old butter with the new, «

The coloring of the butter which has to be of a beautiful yellow, leads(drives) to fraudulent practices in Europe.

Besides marigold flowers, are used; the seeds of Rocou imported by the Antilles, the turmeric, the mixture of diverse spices (seed of Avignon), the use of false saffron realized with mixture of the most surprising.

In the Middle Ages still, in the work ” uses and costumes in the Middle Ages “, it is about a brandy, an elixir of youth, remedy in all the troubles, we knew this brandy under the name of golden water this alcohol was colored in fact by the infusion of spices which gave a beautiful golden color, this golden remedy was savoured at the time of the dessert. [6]

Farther, we can read to what extent the color represented a stake in success for the most luxurious meals, when sweets were brought, moment of the service the most glittering with the meal

The meat could be tinged with lively red thanks to the «blood of dragon «reddish coniferous substance is resulting from the secretion of a palm tree of the Indian Ocean.

[1] Ferrières, Mr., on 2010. History(story) of the food fears: of the Middle Ages at the dawn of the XXth century, Threshold.

[2] Ass’s foal, on 1846. The ménagier of Paris, handled(treated) with morality and with home economics consisted by 1393; published for the first time by the Company(Society) of the Bibliophiles françois, imp. of Crapelet ( Paris). P 220 [ 3 ] Ibidem p 168.

[4] Ferrières, Mr., on 2010. History(story) of the food fears: of the Middle Ages at the dawn of the XXth century, Threshold.

Ibidem, p 90 [ 5 ] Puddle, N. de L., on 1722. Treaty of the police where we shall find the history(story) of its establishment, the functions(offices) and the privileges of his(her) magistrates, all the loix and all the reglemens which concern her(it) by mister . Delamare, At Michel Brunet p 608 [ 6 ] Lacroix, P. and Kellerhoven, F., on 1871. Customs, uses(practices) and suits(costumes) in the Middle Ages: and at the time of the revival, Firmin Didot.p 165 [ 7 ] Ibidem, p 186 [ 8 ] Ibidem p 145 [ 9 ] Ibidem p 116 [ 10 ] Birlouez, E., on 2014. At the table of the Middle Ages. Lords, monks and farmers, Publishing(Editions) Ouest-France (REINDEERS).

[11] Shepherd boy, Mr., on 2004. A symbolic history(story) of the western Middle Ages, Seuil.p 169 [ 12 ] Redon, O. Sabban, F. and Serventi, S., on 2000. Gastronomy in the Middle Ages, University of Chicago Press.

[13] No, 1846. The ménagier of Paris: treaty of morality and home economics consisted by 1393 by a Parisian middle-class person, containing moral rules [etc.]. Crapelet.


By serge Sonneville

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